From TGIF to NSFW: 'Boy Meets World' star Maitland Ward talks breaking free from Hollywood for porn
Baring it all isn’t new territory for Maitland Ward, but this time she’s baring her soul in her debut memoir “Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me From Hollywood” (Atria Books, 256 pp., out now).
Ward spent her late adolescence on many people’s television screens, playing Jessica Forrester on the soap opera “The Bold and The Beautiful” and later Rachel McGuire on '90s teen sitcom “Boy Meets World.” But coming of age in front of the camera came at a price, says Ward, who felt boxed in by her former roles as she got older.
“It was like I was in their television as this person that I always had to be for the rest of my life," Ward says. “And eventually I had to just crack the screen and get out.”
Now in her 40s, Ward has reinvented herself as an award-winning porn star. Not content with playing “the mom next door,” Ward took control of her career by embracing her sexuality, something she was constantly warned against.
“I was told over and over again by publicists and by people in Hollywood, ‘No one wants to see you sexy,’ ” Ward says. “It’s been so liberating these past few years to really be myself, to show people who I am and defy what Hollywood’s expectations were of me.”
Ward shares her journey of going from TGIF to NSFW in “Rated X."
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Maitland Ward learned freedom of sexuality, importance of consent from porn
In “Rated X,” Ward is candid about coming to terms with her bisexuality. Despite experiencing attraction to women throughout her life, Ward’s conservative background made it difficult to find self-acceptance.
“I was raised very religiously, and I just wanted to push that part of myself that loves girls away for so long or keep it secret,” Ward explains. “I felt if it was secret and no one knew about it, then it wouldn’t be bad because nobody could judge me or say anything about me.”
With the love and support of her husband Terry Baxter, Ward says she got to a point where she “couldn’t lie about (her bisexuality) anymore” and began incorporating it into her work in adult entertainment.
“When I got into the adult industry and I was able to do scenes (with women), it was so fun to be able to show it to the world and not be ashamed or embarrassed anymore,” Ward says.
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Ward says working in porn has also made her aware of the importance of consent while filming intimate scenes. In an era where intimacy coordinators are becoming the norm on sets, Ward says the open communication in porn productions stands in contrast to the lack of dialogue from her days on daytime television.
“When I was young and I did the soap opera and I had my first love scene, nobody talked to me about anything that was going to happen except the motions. I know we weren’t really having sex, but we were really kissing and rubbing, and I was only 17 at the time,” Ward says. “So, I felt like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing onscreen, but in porn, you talk about everything ahead of time.”
The celebration of sexuality in porn has allowed Ward to break free of the stigma attached to female sexuality, which she says is the “final frontier” of “liberation for women.”
“If we are totally sexually liberated, doing what we want, not caring about judgement from men on the outside or higher-ups, then we’re free,” Ward says.
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Maitland Ward talks ‘Boy Meets World,’ Terry Crews’ anti-porn stance
Despite starring on a G-rated sitcom, Ward says she felt “there were always sexual innuendos” to her storyline on “Boy Meets World,” such as a food fight scene with co-star Will Friedle in which Rachel “had (her) feet all over his face and chest, and we were wrestling around in marinara.”
And while Ward didn’t mind this, she says she took issue with the “dismissive” treatment of her character by Cory (Ben Savage) and Shawn (Rider Strong) on the show, including a scene in which the boys leak private photos of Rachel.
“It was the least female-empowering thing. They treated me terribly, and I don’t think that would even fly today,” says Ward of Cory and Shawn's treatment of her character. “They’re looking through my private things, they’re stealing my parking spot, they’re putting pictures of me up in the student union… and it was acceptable.”
“Boy Meets World” wrapped at the turn of the millennium, which Ward says was “a crazy, oppressive time for women” in Hollywood.
“You had to be a virgin and a sex pot all at once and not embrace either one completely: You just had to be in limbo,” Ward explains.
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She says adult entertainment helped her take ownership of her sexuality and body, as well as unchain herself from this conflicting messaging.
“Hollywood for so long would just tell me, ‘You can be kind of sexy onscreen, but you can’t be in real life’ because if you did it in real life you are embarrassing and you’re desperate,” Ward says. “I feel more able to do what I want to do and be free with my body and my womanhood, and that has given me such liberation.”
Ward’s last major Hollywood role was in the 2004 crime comedy “White Chicks,” which also featured “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Terry Crews. Ward opens up in her book about how she felt when Crews railed against the porn industry after revealing his past addiction to pornography.
“He cannot speak for an entire world of people,” Ward says. “It was shocking and shameful that he would do that to so many (people), especially women, that have their livelihoods wrapped up (in the industry), and it creates more shame and stigma for them.”
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Maitland Ward on the possibility of returning to Hollywood
Unlike other former sitcom stars who’ve revived their characters through reboots, including Savage and Strong on the "Boy Meets World" reboot "Girl Meets World," Ward isn’t looking to indulge nostalgia.
“I loved my time on ‘Boy Meets World,’ ” Ward says. “But it’s like high school. You had issues but you loved it, and you had fun and friends, but you don’t want to live in high school for the rest of your life and be known as the person you were.”
Ward says she wants to marry the worlds of feature filmmaking and pornography to show that the latter can have depth.
“People think porn is just this stupid, googly-eyed, no-story-bad-acting thing, but we’re actually making real feature films that are amazing,” Ward says. "They’re better than independent films that I’ve made.”
In 2019, Ward starred in the fantasy drama “Drive,” a film that she said allowed her to reconnect with the fundamentals of acting.
“I’m playing (the) kinds of roles that I was never ever allowed to play in Hollywood before,” Ward says. “They would never give me a dark, twisted, serious role with 700 lines of monologue.”
While Ward isn’t opposed to returning to Hollywood – she recently shot a porn-inspired sitcom pilot titled “The Big Time” – she says she’s approaching new projects with a stronger sense of self.
“It’s my way this time. I’m not going to do it to try to please anybody or to try to get them to love me,” Ward says. “I’m going to do what makes me happy and makes me feel solid and authentic and true to myself.”
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